Key Takeaways from Innovative Teachers

I learn by....

This week, I had the pleasure of attending three events where the number of teachers significantly outweighed administrators and each had the goal of listening to our teachers. There’s no replacement for teacher voice and colleagues listening to one another talk about their professional practice, the future, and how a system can collectively improve. This blog post addresses one of those events.

On Tuesday, we met to celebrate the Innovator’s Mindset book study. Over 50 people signed up to read the book and participate in George Couros’ Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).  We wanted to listen to feedback, not only about the book but the future of our district, Forest Hills. For the meeting, we put a variety of posters with prompts around the room and people were able to drop in anytime between 3:00-5:30 for campfire-style discussion. Throughout the two and a half hour span, sixteen people volunteered their personal time to celebrate. We pitched some ideas requesting candid feedback but spent the majority of our time listening to teachers discuss what they’re doing in their classroom and how the district can foster risk-taking and innovation. In addition, many of the attendees committed to an innovation camp and to help the district create a professional learner profile for our staff.

Poster topics and staff reflections

I learn by:

  • Meeting with colleagues – 11
  • Reading articles – 8
  • Reading books – 8
  • Listening to audiobooks – 4
  • Listening to podcasts – 6
  • Engaging with Twitter – 7
  • Workshops – 7
  • TED

Most Profound Takeaway from the book Innovator’s Mindset

  • Education has to change because the world has already changed
  • Give direction, not directions
  • Isolation is the enemy of innovation (personal favorite)
  • Innovator Characteristics:
    • Visionary
    • Observant
    • Team builder
    • Empathetic
    • Models learning
    • Open risk taker
    • Networked
    • Relationship
  • Compliance does not foster innovation
  • Learning is happening; teacher’s role is/has changed
  • Start with empathy
  • If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.
  • Right now we have many 21st century schools with 20th-century learning.
  • Apply the Rule of seven touches – starts with people who fail and are cared for, supported, nurtured
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships
  • Innovators are thinkers and see problems and some possible solutions all at once – doesn’t make them negative
  • Change is an opportunity to something amazing

If you could be professionally developed on anything, what would you choose?

  • Psychology of adolescents!
  • Brain studies – how millennials are different!
  • Project management
  • PLC connection to my classroom
  • Design thinking
  • Personalized learning
  • ELA pathways – how to help students see how ELA solves the world’s problems
  • Personalized learning – pathways to combine ELA and social studies
  • Grade-level appropriate use of technology and personalized learning
  • Personalized learning
  • How to create personalized curriculum for every student

What I think is important for you to know about me as a learner:

  • Too much is too much (can’t really multitask)
  • I need processing time
  • I need colleagues in the room, and I like short bursts of information with required follow-up
  • I love working with others
  • I need to draw and talk it out
  • I like quiet reflection time
  • I need to go through full cycles of trying, reflecting, and trying again to fully learn
  • I need authentic connections
  • I take time to reflect as I learn, and my new knowledge forms my ideas and thinking
  • I love where we are headed – not fast enough!
  • I like to talk/collaborate/plan/process information and have time to plan for the duration of the year
  • Leave me alone to determine my path – then support me
  • I need to process and have time to “check with myself”

I would innovate more if…

  • I could bilocate-clone myself! Just Kidding – I had dedicated time each day/week like with Freshman cohort
  • If I didn’t have a perception of red tape
  • If resources were more easily obtained
  • More time to collaborate, observe across the district/Cincinnati; more PD
  • I had collaborative planning/think time with a team
  • A team of open, innovative partners
  • Get rid of compliance
  • I had less restraints – time, mandates, etc.
  • I didn’t have to get them ready for tests
  • Had less meetings or “to-do” work
  • I had a platform or avenue to actually apply the innovative idea in action – “playground”
  • If I could get more comfortable with being vulnerable  
  • If I felt more support

You can superimpose the answers above to most districts as we suffer from similar issues. Preparing students for the Creative Age using a traditional/industrial model proves challenging for every district but it is familiar, understood, and gives the impression of  “tried and true.” Fortunately, collaborative leadership among districts offers hope for collectively re-inventing education, pooling our resources and lifting up all students.

As we met earlier this week, the conversation felt free, simple, and uninhibited. I walked away feeling energized by the conversations led by teachers taking risks in their classroom. Krista Willertz, an Anderson High School biology teacher discussed implementing Genius Hour in her AP Biology Class. Elementary teachers talked about personalizing learning in their classroom and how their Meraki group provides a sounding board for their work. All teachers mentioned the importance of administrative support and learning from one another.

If you were to fishbowl the event you would see genuine interest, nodding heads, free-flowing ideas, and hear infectious laughter as teachers shared their experiences with one another. The three teacher-focused events this week showcased how our innovators propel us forward and the importance of teacher voices. Onward and upward innovators!